Climbing partner J and I have already delayed our trip one week due to heavy rain, and now it’s June 27 and we’ve decided to take our chances on the oscillating weather forecast. We load our packs into J’s Honda and hit the road for Niigata, where we hope to summit Hiuchi-yama today and Myoko-san tomorrow, before returning tomorrow afternoon. Traffic is light at 5:30 a.m., and aside from one 15-minute detour courtesy of our GPS unit, the trip is largely smooth. As we near the trailhead at Sasagamine, we drive past a family of monkeys moving through the roadside trees; they’ve attracted a dozen cars, all parked along the two-lane road, eager to photograph them.
A desire to climb compelled me to conquer my fear of heights. This is how I did it.
I remember the first time. It happened, of all places, at the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles. The Wilshire Boulevard site doesn’t sit on any particularly steep relief. But one of the buildings, set on a very small hill, is ringed with a cement sidewalk wide enough that, from my low perspective as a child, seemed to drop off into the air. With no railing to protect passers-by, from my “safe” location next to the building’s full-length glass walls I warned my father not to get too close to the edge. My dad, with his usual sense of humor, walked carefully up to the edge and “fell” off into the abyss. I remember feeling extremely distressed, but soon my mom’s laughter hinted that I had missed something. With her coaxing, I tentatively worked my way up to the edge, finding my father sitting on the hill, looking up at me. Relieved, the experience passed from my immediate memory as we continued our visit to the museum, but looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the first significant time I associated a perception of height with a sensation of danger.
Note: The events of this post took place June 21-22, 2014.
Friend-and-coworker J and I set out for Shinjuku Station to catch the 8:00 am JR Chuo Line Limited Express Super Azusa 5 train bound for Nagano Prefecture. With 36 platforms and 200 exits, we eventually make our way to the waiting train, only to learn that we cannot purchase reserve seats at the platform, so standing it is until enough commuters deboard and unreserved seats open 100 minutes into the two-hours-and-change trip.
Hefting our packs and trekking poles, we move quickly out of Chino Station, scanning a building across the street for where our guidebook tells us the bus stops. The bus only runs a few times a day, and missing this one will keep us here for long enough to make sure we won’t reach our goal before nightfall.